These colorful panels both
feature a familiar northern hemisphere
astronomical sight: the stellar nursery known as
the Great Orion Nebula.
They also offer an intriguing and unfamiliar detail of the
nebula rich skyscape -- a passing comet.
Recorded this weekend with a remotely operated telescope in
New Mexico, the right hand image was taken on
September 26 and
the left on September 27.
Comet 217P Linear
sports an extended greenish tail and lies
above the bluish
reflection nebula near the top of
Nearby and moving rapidly through the night sky, the comet's
position clearly shifts against the cosmic nebulae and background
stars from one night to the next.
In fact, the comet was a mere 5 light-minutes away on September
27, compared to 1,500 light-years for the Orion Nebula.
Much too faint to be seen with the unaided eye,
is a small periodic comet with an orbital period of
about 8 years.
At its most distant point from the Sun,
orbit is calculated to reach beyond the orbit of Jupiter
At its closest point to the Sun, the comet still lies just
beyond the orbit of planet Earth.